The Folkestone School for Girls Academy Trust is known as “the school” in this policy.
At The Folkestone School for Girls, the staff are dedicated to providing all the students with the best possible education and will aim to care properly for their health, safety and welfare at all times. We are committed to working closely with parents and believe that the School and parents should work in partnership, each carrying out their particular responsibilities, to help the students gain the most from their time at our School.
If you feel that something is not occurring quite as you would like, or we are doing something that you are unhappy about, or not doing something that you feel we should, please tell us about it.
If you have a concern, you should in the first instance, discuss your concerns informally with your daughter’s SDL or Tutor, if it is appropriate to do so. However, if the issue concerns a Child Protection matter it should be discussed with the Designated Child Protection Coordinator. If the matter is about the Designated Child Protection Coordinator, then you should address your issue to the Principal. If you do not feel that your concern has been properly addressed, or if your concern is about a particular teacher, please discuss the matter informally with a member of the Senior Leadership Team.
If after these discussions you remain dissatisfied and wish your complaint to be considered further you should refer your complaint to the Senior Vice Principal, who is the school’s complaints coordinator. Upon receipt of your complaint the Senior Vice Principal will arrange for the matter to be fully reviewed and for a response to be sent to you within 10 school working days. This response may invite you to a meeting to discuss the matter further and to try to achieve a satisfactory resolution.
If you continue to remain dissatisfied and feel your complaint has not been properly addressed through these earlier discussions you can refer your complaint to the Principal. Upon a complaint being referred to the Principal she, or in her absence her nominated member of the Senior Leadership Team, will arrange for a separate investigation into the circumstances of your complaint to be completed and a response will be sent to you within 10 school working days. This response may invite you to a meeting to discuss the matter further and to try to achieve a satisfactory resolution.
If, after doing this, you are still not satisfied with our actions or decisions, you can send a formal complaint to the Chair of Governors of The Folkestone School for Girls, via the Clerk to the Governors at the School. At this point your formal letter of complaint should briefly set out the main circumstances and reasons for your complaint, together with the reasons you remain dissatisfied by earlier discussions and attempts to resolve the matter.
If the issue is still not satisfactorily resolved you can write to the Ombudsman; please ask the Clerk to the Governors for the address.
Stage One: Complaint heard by SDL or Tutor
It is in everyone’s interest that complaints are resolved at the earliest possible stage. Many can be resolved quickly and informally to the satisfaction of all parties and wherever possible this is what we endeavour to do. The experience of the first contact between the complainant and the School can be crucial in determining whether the complaint will escalate. To that end, staff are made aware of the procedure, so that they know what to do when they receive a complaint.
The school respects the views of a complainant who indicates that they would have difficulty discussing a complaint with a particular member of staff. In this case the complaints coordinator will refer the complainant to another appropriate staff member. Where the complaint concerns the Senior Vice Principal, the complaint should be referred to the Principal; where the complaint concerns the Principal the complaints coordinator will refer the complaint to the Chair of Governors.
Similarly, if the member of staff directly involved feels too compromised to deal with a complaint, they will ask the complaints coordinator to refer the complainant to another appropriate staff member. The ability to consider any complaint objectively and impartially is crucial.
The role of the complaints coordinator is to ensure fair & impartial consideration of all complaints and to ensure that complainants are provided with a well considered response to their concerns within the appropriate timescales. Complainants can contact the complaints coordinator to discuss the progress of their complaints or to indicate they wish their complaints to be considered further at the next stage. The complaints coordinator will maintain a record of all written complaints which are referred to them and ensure that all correspondence, statements and records of any such complaints are kept confidential. Upon receipt of a complaint, a response will be sent to the complainant within 10 school working days.
Where the first approach is made to a governor, the next step is to refer the complaint to the Senior Vice Principal so that an appropriate member of staff can be identified to consider the complaint. In normal circumstances governors will not be involved at the early stages of a complaint as they may be needed to sit on a complaints panel at a later stage of the procedure.
Stage Two: Complaint heard by the Senior Vice Principal
If the complainant is dissatisfied with the way the complaint was handled at Stage 1, they should refer their complaint directly to the Senior Vice Principal who will investigate the issue and pursue their initial complaint. The Senior Vice Principal may delegate the task of undertaking a further investigation, or of collating all the relevant information to another staff member, but not the decision on the action to be taken. Upon receipt of any complaint sent directly to the Senior Vice Principal, a response will be sent within 10 school working days. The complainant will also be advised by the Senior Vice Principal of their right to have the matter considered at Stage 3.
Stage Three: Complaint heard by the Principal
At this point, the complainant may be dissatisfied with the way the complaint was handled in Stages 1 & 2 as well as pursuing their initial complaint. The Principal may delegate the task of undertaking a further investigation, or of collating all the relevant information to another staff member, but not the decision on the action to be taken. Upon reference of any complaint to the Principal, a response will be sent to the complainant within 10 school working days. The complainant should be advised of their right to have the matter considered at Stage 4.
Stage Four: Complaint heard by the Governing Body Complaints Appeal Panel
If still dissatisfied after Stages 1-3, the complainant will be advised of their right to make a formal complaint, in writing, to the Chair of Governors. The letter to the Chair of Governors should set out details of the complaint, together with reasons for the complainants continued dissatisfaction.
Upon receipt of a formal complaint, the Chair of Governors, or a nominated governor, will arrange for all information on the complaint to be collated and will convene a complaints panel within 20 school working days. None of the members of the complaints panel will have been directly involved in any previous consideration of the complaint. One of the members of the panel will be independent of the management and running of the school.
The appeal hearing by the complaints panel is the last school based stage of the process and will review the earlier stages, together with any additional information.
Individual complaints are not heard by the whole governing body at any stage, as this could compromise the impartiality of any panel set up for a disciplinary hearing, against a member of staff following a serious complaint.
The complainant will be invited to the appeal hearing and will be given at least 7 days’ notice in writing of the time and venue of the hearing. Complainants will also be advised that, if they wish, they may be accompanied to the appeal hearing by an appropriate relative or friend.
The Remit of The Complaints Appeal Panel
The governors complaints panel can:
- dismiss the complaint in whole or in part;
- uphold the complaint in whole or in part;
- decide on the appropriate action to be taken to resolve the complaint;
- recommend changes to the school’s systems or procedures to ensure that similar problems do not recur.
Governors or any independent members of the appeals panel will keep certain points clearly in mind:
a.) it is important that the appeal hearing is independent and impartial and that it is seen to be so. No governor may sit on the complaints panel if they have had a prior involvement with the complaint in question or in the circumstances surrounding it. Members of the complaints panel who feel their independence might be compromised in this or any other way must draw this to the attention of the Chair of Governors. In deciding the make-up of the panel, governors need to try to ensure that it is a cross-section of the categories of governor and sensitive to the issues of race, gender and religious affiliation;
b.) the aim of the hearing, which will be held in private, will always be to resolve the complaint and achieve reconciliation between the school and the complainant. However, it is recognised that the complainant might not be satisfied with the outcome if the hearing does not find in their favour. In some cases it may only be possible to establish the facts and make recommendations which will satisfy the complainant that his or her complaint has been taken seriously;
c.) extra care will be taken when the complaint directly concerns a student. The complaints panel needs to be aware of the views of the student and give them equal consideration to those of adults. Where the student’s parent is the complainant, the panel will provide the parent with an opportunity to discuss which parts of the hearing, if any, it might be helpful for the student to attend;
d.) The governors sitting on the panel need to be fully aware of this complaints procedure.
The role of the Clerk to the Governors
The Clerk to the Governors is the contact point for the complainant at Stage 4 and required to:
- set the date, time and venue of the hearing, ensuring where possible that the dates are convenient to all parties and that the venue and proceedings are accessible;
- ensure that the Complaints Panel is convened within 20 school working days of the notice of formal complaint being received unless all parties agree to any further deferral;
- collate any written material and send it to the parties in advance of the hearing;
- meet and welcome the parties as they arrive at the hearing;
- record the proceedings and outcomes of the hearing;
- notify all parties in writing of the panel’s decision and any recommendations within 20 school working days of the hearing;
- ensure that copies of all the written records of the hearing are included on the Complaints Coordinators confidential file and record of complaints.
The role of the Chair of the Governing Body or the Nominated Governor
The Nominated Governor/Chair of Governors is required to:
- check that the correct procedure has been followed;
- notify the clerk to arrange a panel if a hearing is required.
The role of the Chair of the Panel
The Chair of the complaints panel has a key role, ensuring that:
- the remit of the panel is explained to the parties and each party has the opportunity of putting their case without undue interruption;
- the issues are addressed;
- key findings of fact are made;
- parents and others who may not be used to speaking at such a hearing are put at ease;
- any friend or adviser accompanying the parent/complainant is advised of their role and how the panel will arrange for their contribution to proceedings;
- the hearing is conducted in an informal manner with each party treating the other with respect and courtesy;
- the panel is open minded and acting independently;
- no member of the panel has a vested interest in the outcome of the proceedings or any involvement in an earlier stage of the procedure
- one member of the panel is independent of the management and running of the school;
- each side is given the opportunity to state their case and ask questions;
- written material is seen by all parties. If a new issue arises it would be useful to give all parties the opportunity to consider and comment on it.
The Chair of the Panel needs to ensure, via the Clerk to the Governors, that the complainant is notified of the panel’s decision and any recommendations, in writing, within 20 school working days. The letter will explain if there are any further rights of appeal and, if so, to whom they need to be addressed.
Where the complainant chooses to attend in person the order of proceedings will be as follows:
i) the Chairman will welcome the complainant and introduce those present;
ii) the Complainant may re-state the nature of the complaint if they choose;
iii) the Complainant may be asked questions by the committee and by the Principal;
iv) the Principal may be asked to make a statement to the committee regarding the complaint and may be asked questions by the committee or the complainant;
v) both parties may summarise the complaint, if appropriate;
vi) the Principal, complainant and any accompanying relative or friend will be asked to leave.
After the withdrawal of the Principal, the complainant and any accompanying relative or friend, the committee shall consider the complaint and any relevant information. The committee shall decide to:
i) reject the complaint;
ii) uphold the complaint; or
iii) investigate the complaint further.
The Clerk will inform the complainant and the Principal in writing within 20 school working days;
i) of the decision reached by the committee and the reasons for the decision.
ii) if the complaint was upheld, of any action taken or proposed, including details of any request to those complained against to take particular actions to resolve the complaint; where the complainant is dissatisfied with the action taken or proposed to remedy the complaint, he or she may pursue the matter further with the Principal or the Governing Body as appropriate.
iii) of any further rights of appeal and if so to whom they need to be addressed.
Where the Committee decides to investigate the complaint further, the Clerk shall inform the complainant of the steps to be taken and the progress made. Any subsequent meeting of the committee shall be subject to the provisions described above in so far as they are relevant.
If you have any questions about the procedures described above, you may write to the Clerk to the Governing Body who will be able to advise you further.